IN Ireland, much remains to be learned about our native wildlife. In Britain, they are well ahead of us in terms of research and numerous, active voluntary groups there are constantly updating themselves on the state of nature.
Nowadays, there’s a growing tendency here to engage the public in research and the Irish Wildlife Trust is looking for enthusiasts to volunteer as citizen scientists and go lizard spotting this spring and summer.
We have two interesting species of this tiny, land-dwelling creature which looks like a survivor from pre-history — the common lizard and the slow-worm lizard.
The common lizard is a native Irish reptile found widely in areas such as bogland, coastal sites and grasslands, gardens and even sand- dunes. It feeds on small insects and slugs and has adapted to the cooler climate by giving birth to live young.
Our second reptile, the slow worm, is an even more peculiar creature. It looks like a small snake, but is really a legless lizard which has adapted to a life without legs, sliding through the undergrowth hunting slugs and insects. This creature was introduced to Ireland, in the 1970s, and is found in the Burren region. Lizards hibernate in winter and the best time to spot them is from March to October, but you won’t see them at midday when they shelter from the sun.
Through this citizen scientist-led survey, the Irish Wildlife Trust hopes to determine the distribution of both species. This knowledge will allow experts to monitor any changes in the population to ensure any decline does not go unnoticed before it is too late. The results should also shed light on the spread of the introduced slow worm and effects this might have on other wildlife.
“Much of Ireland’s wildlife remains under-recorded and under-protected. Through projects like this the people of Ireland can help us learn vital information about our wildlife helping us safeguard their populations,” says survey co-ordinator Kieran Flood.
Anyone can volunteer for this survey and previous experience is not required. Volunteers are asked to attend training workshops after which they will choose an area in their locality to carry out a simple reptile survey, the results of which will be returned to the trust to compile up-to-date records and maps.
Booking is essential for the workshops which are free of charge for trust members and which cost €10 for non-members. They will be taking place, on March 5, in Ballybay Co Monaghan; on March 6, in Abbyleix, Co Laois; on March 12, in Galway city, and on March 13, in Tralee, Co Kerry. To enquire about registering as a volunteer surveyor, or to book a place in workshops, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or see www.iwt.ie
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